StarFront: Transit of Venus
Chapter 13: Reunion
December 25, 2125
This was officially the worst Christmas ever. Of all time.
It was funny, really. Many kids would have killed for the chance to be in space. And certainly when he'd arrived on the Maun, he'd been thrilled. Thrilled with seeing the Earth from above. Thrilled with being able to fly in zero-gravity. But over the last two weeks, George had got sick of it. He was sick of having to use the bathroom in zero-g. He was sick of having to eat plastic food. He was sick of having to spend an hour each day on a treadmill, surrounded by men and women much older than himself and making it clear that they weren't interested in conversation. And now, sitting in a longue area, strapped into a chair and reading from an e-book reader, his boredom was not only as high as the moon. It was over it.
"How's the book?" Karin asked, swinging over to the vending machine.
"Fine," George mused. "Fine…"
It wasn't. She probably knew it. But either way, his guardian swung her credit chip, a hole opened up from the vending machine's bottom, and a claw stuck out plastic satchel of coke. Ultra-diet vanilla flavour.
It hadn't always been like this, the nine-year old reflected. One moment he'd been minding his business at home, wondering when his dad was coming back, why the baby-sitter was so…non babysitterish, and what could have been so important that his father hadn't even told him the full details of where he was going. The next thing he knew, what looked like policemen were barging in, knocking the babysitter to the ground (who'd drawn a gun out of nowhere before getting it knocked out of his hands) and yelling that he was under arrest. It was cool, it was terrifying and in the middle of it all, a woman who gave the name of Karin had come up to him. Told him that he'd have to come with her. That there'd been some kind of incident that involved his father and for now, it was best if he remained with the FEU.
George had accepted. Partly because he felt like he had no choice. And when Karin told him he'd be staying on an FEU space station, he'd let the thrill get to him. True, the take-off felt like hell and he'd even passed out, but then here he was. In space. Ready to enjoy it, savour it, and then realize how unpleasant the whole thing really was.
George nodded as his guardian leant forward, squeezing some of the coke out in a bubble for him to swallow. It was fun the first few times, but George was sick of it. If he wanted coke, he'd drink it out of a bottle. And if he wanted a soft-drink of choice, he'd have a pepsi, thank you very much.
"Thanks," George murmured, watching Karin drift back over. She nodded in response.
In the past, "thanks" might have been accompanied by "so, you going to tell me what's going on?" He'd since given up asking. Right now, the only source of information he was getting was from the silent flatscreen mounted on the wall above. Set to the BBC, which was focussing on what was going on in the Pacific. Some PPA terrorist action that had its rivals joining forces in the UN to condemn it. It was what a newscaster called a FUBAR…and while George didn't know what that meant, he was able to appreciate that while Asia and the Americas were willing to shout down their rival, their Pacific grievances seemed to have been forgotten. Now if only his dad had been here to appreciate it with him. If only-…
George swayed in his chair. The belt kept him strapped in, but he dropped his e-reader and consequently, it went sailing through the air. Still, he ignored it, and turned to Karin.
"What was that?"
She gave him the hush sign, instead listening to her ear radio. After a few seconds, she turned to face him.
"Ship's arrived George," she said, unbuckling her belt and drifting towards the ladder that led to the deck above. "Wait here."
"Huh? What ship? What-…"
She ignored him, quickly moving to the ladder and climbing up.
Rubbing his eyes, George returned his gaze to the flatscreen, showing a reporter in some kind of tropical setting in the Pacific, reporting on fleets remaining on standby, postponing armed conflict.
Lucky bum. He gets a summer Christmas. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying Christmas in space.
It was a sign of how bad things were that he considered this to be a bad thing. But he was sick of it. Where was his father? Why was he in space? Why was he being kept in the dark? Why was he still sitting here instead of going after his e-reader?
Ah, screw it.
George unbuckled his belt with one hand while keeping his other on the chair's spine. He'd been told to "wait here," though Karin had never specified whether "here" applied to just the chair or the room. Either way, he didn't care. He drifted up. Got ready to push. Saw how the e-reader was drifting near the ladder. Started pushing off…
"George, what are you doing?!"
And grabbed the chair again as Karin came back down.
"I told you to stay here," she said, drifting over and fastening his seatbelt. As if he was just a child.
"Yeah, you did," George murmured. "You didn't say I couldn't get out of my seat though."
The woman let out a smirk. "True, that. Well, don't worry George. Everything's been sorted out. You'll be going home soon. If not today, you'll at least be home on Boxing Day."
George remained silent. That was all well and good, but where was his father? And never mind that no presents had been bought or at least, left under the non-existent tree.
"As I said, your father was involved with an incident," Karin continued. "I never told you it was on Venus."
"On…Venus?" he asked.
"Yep. And…well, long story, and he's been absolved of whatever crimes he might have committed-…"
"And been given clearance to share his experiences. The FEU's neutral. However the PPA looks, it's of no concern to us."
George's head was spinning, and not because of any zero-g effects. Venus? Crimes? The PPA? His father in the middle of it all? He opened his mouth to say something, anything, but Karin beat him to it.
"And here he comes now."
How she knew that, George didn't know – maybe her ears were attuned to space vibrations or something. The "how" quickly faded from the boy's mind however, as he was faced with the "who." Who not being a doctor, but his father, crawling down the ladder.
"Hey kiddo," his father said, drifting towards him. "Good to see you."
"Um…" George trailed off as his father easily drifted to the seat beside him, his movements as fluid as Karin's had been over the last two weeks. How had he got so good? Why was he here? What on Earth, or above Earth, was going on?
"You okay George? They been treating you all right?"
They hadn't. The food sucked. The drink sucked. This was the worst Christmas ever. Sure, seeing his dad was nice, but why'd he left in the first place?
"So…" George said eventually, his words addressed to both his father and Karin and equal measure. "Can we leave today? I mean, it's Christmas and…well, not expecting any gifts or anything, but-…"
"Actually George, I do have something for you."
The kid looked up at his father. Was there a gift shop on Venus or something?
"Or rather, someone."
What in the…
George was confused. His e-reader was still floating around the ladder. Maybe the person coming down it could bring it to him. Maybe-…
Hanging down through the hole, grasping the rungs, she looked at him.
"George," she said again. "Do you remember me?"
George stared at her. Dark hair of moderate length. Brown eyes like his own. A visage and physique that was quite trim, athletic even.
She looked at him. George looked back. At her face. She seemed…familiar. Like someone he'd seen. Almost like pictures of a woman he'd seen at home. A woman that just happened to be…
He stared. At her. At her ring. At her again.
She nodded, tears coming to her eyes. "You've grown," she said softly.
George stared. His mother…her visage. Not just from the pictures, but from something older. Memories, like a dream. Or the cusp of a dream, as the tide retreated from the sand of a beach. But the tide was coming back. The sand was feeling it.
And in this case, the sand itself moved to meet the tide on its own terms.
George shot forward with more force than was needed, all thoughts of the e-reader gone. Letting go of the ladder, his mother caught him in time. Caught and hugged him, as if to never let go. And he hugged her back.
"I…I've been waiting for this," his mother said. "George…you have no idea…to see you again…all grown up…"
She hugged him tighter. He welcomed it. And as his father drifted over, as he put his hand on his shoulder, all thoughts of potential awkwardness in front of Karin were forgotten.
"Merry Christmas George," his father said. "Hope the wait was worth it."
George remained silent. His mind was racing. Yet in the midst of it all, there was one thought that shone out the most, eclipsing the glow of the sun and all the stars.
This was the best Christmas ever.
Well, that's that done. Admittedly a very tenuous link to StarFront, but in an effort to keep all my stories on the one site, it's kind of how I work when it comes to original fiction.
For what it's worth, I don't have any other StarFront stories on my 'to write' list at this time of writing. I'm currently working on a Prometheus story titled The New Black Gold.